Hair loss can have a variety of causes. Exposure to heavy metals, including lead, can lead to hair loss. Hair loss from lead poisoning manifests itself with a diffuse thinning on the entire head.

If the cause is eliminated, hair loss due to lead poisoning can go away on its own.

How to know whether hair loss is from lead poisoning

Lead is a toxic heavy metal; it can lead to poisoning. A distinction is made between two groups of toxic heavy metals. One group has no biological significance for human metabolism.

The metals in group, which include cadmium, mercury and aluminum in addition to lead, are harmful to the body. The second group is – in a very low concentration – even vital. This group includes iron, zinc, copper, arsenic and nickel. These metals are only toxic to the body in higher concentrations.

Lead can settle in the blood, but also in various organs such as the kidneys, liver, bones and brain. Lead poisoning not only causes hair loss, but also various other physical complaints.

Hair loss due to lead poisoning occurs diffusely. The hair becomes thinner and lighter on the entire head, so that the scalp shines through. In extreme cases, there may be a total loss of hair in the further course.

However, there is also good news. Since it is a diffuse hair loss , the hair can grow back when the cause has been eliminated.

How lead poisoning can occur

Lead can be absorbed through drinking water through outdated water pipes. Rarely, it is ingested from canned foods, since it can occur at white solder joints on the food cans.

However, lead can also appear as fine dust on fruits and vegetables. Through sewage sludge and mineral fertilizers in agriculture, lead reaches the fields and attaches itself to fruits and vegetables.

Various foods such as pork and beef liver, mussels and deer can also contain small amounts of lead. Since deer is sometimes shot with lead-containing ammunition, the lead can be deposited in the meat.

Since lead can no longer be contained in petrol, the environmental impact of heavy metals has been reduced by almost 90 percent. Lead casting sets, as is a popular tradition on New Year’s Eve, have also not been sold since 2018.

Other ways lead can get into the human body:

  • as an addition to wall colors
  • in traffic due to the abrasion of brakes and tires
  • Industrial emissions, especially in waste incineration plants, coal-fired power plants and in metal processing
  • via colorful glazed ceramics from abroad that is used for food
  • various Ayurveda preparations and ointments.

Lead can enter the body through the intestine, lungs or skin.

In various professions, for example in some metal professions, in the chemical industry, in the paint industry or in the battery industry, there is a greater risk of lead intake.

If there is hair loss triggered by lead poisoning, you should change your job. In addition to hair loss, lead poisoning with significantly more serious symptoms is noticeable.

Symptoms to watch out for

Lead poisoning can be acute or chronic. Acute lead poisoning is a medical emergency and is felt within days or weeks. Hair loss due to lead poisoning is usually rapid.

Other symptoms include severe abdominal cramps, paralysis of the arms and legs, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, poor concentration, hearing loss, headache, anemia and constipation.

If acute lead poisoning was caused by swallowing lead-containing objects, gastric lavage or surgical removal of the lead from the stomach takes place. If the lead is also found in soft tissues and various organs, the detoxification is done with medication.

Chronic lead poisoning occurs gradually if the body has ingested small amounts of lead over a long period of time. Hair loss can also happen here. Other symptoms are

  • Fatigue and insomnia
  • headache
  • Anemia and high blood pressure
  • Feeling weak and loss of appetite
  • Lack of concentration and nervousness

Due to an infection, stress or a metabolic disorder, lead that has been deposited in the bones in the event of severe chronic lead poisoning can suddenly be released at once.

This can lead to symptoms that also occur with acute lead poisoning. Chronic lead poisoning can be treated with medication. The patient receives infusions so that the lead from the soft tissues and the blood is excreted in the urine via the kidneys (chelation therapy).

The therapy is stopped when the lead concentration in the blood drops below the limit again.

A hair loss due to lead poisoning can only be treated by treating the cause.

How to avoid hair loss from lead poisoning

You can avoid lead poisoning and the associated hair loss by always washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly. If you have ceramic dishes with a colorful glaze from abroad, you should not use them for food and drinks.

You should make sure that your food contains enough vitamin C, iron, calcium, zinc and magnesium. This will prevent you from taking in too much lead through the intestine.

Conclusion: Hair loss due to lead poisoning is mostly reversible

Hair loss from lead poisoning occurs diffusely on the entire head. Depending on whether it is acute or chronic lead poisoning, hair loss can occur more or less quickly.

You can get lead from food because it can accumulate on fruits and vegetables. The intake can also take place via the lungs, for example in the form of industrial gases. You can also absorb lead through the skin.

Lead poisoning manifests itself with serious symptoms and needs to be treated. At worst, it can lead to death.

If the lead poisoning was treated as the cause and you avoid the cause of the poisoning in the future, your hair can grow back normally.

Kathy Duchamp

Kathy Duchamp

Kathy has been working as a freelance author for numerous online and offline media since 2001 - and since 2019 also for The Hair Loss Advisor. Following her studies in psychology and education, she initially worked as an employed specialist journalist and PR editor before moving to freelance corporate communications. In the last ten years she has written for a patient portal, a hospital group, two food supplement manufacturers and a pharmacy magazine.
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